When B.J. Upton left the Rays, not only did the Rays lose an amazing center-fielder and a playoff hitter, they lost a speedster. Upton was one of the fastest runners on the team; he and Desmond Jennings (or Carl Crawford) were known for getting on base, stealing bases, and scoring when the power hitters were up at-bat. Now that Upton is gone, Jennings remains at the top of the batting order, but the Rays haven’t decided who will be batter number two.
According to Wikipedia, the leadoff hitter is the fastest baserunner on the team and its his job to get on base and to score when the powerful hitters come up to bat – Jennings is the fastest player on the team and one of the most consistent batters on the team so it makes sense that he is the leadoff hitter. The second batter should be a “contact hitter with the ability to bunt a baserunner over or get a hit.” These baserunners should be quick to avoid batting into double plays and managers prefer left-handed batters because of the “gap in the infield cause by the first baseman holding the leadoff batter”.
Out of the nine games played so far this year, Sam Fuld (4), Matt Joyce (3), and Sean Rodriquez (2) have been in the two-hole.
- Sam Fuld: Fuld is known for his speed and his batting average (BA) is .111 – the lowest on the team – with a on-base-percentage (OBP) of .241. His average BA is .241 and OBP is .322.
- Matt Joyce: Joyce is a lefty and is batting .174 with a OBP of .240. His average BA is .253 and OBP is .342.
- Sean Rodriquez: Rodriquez is able to run and is batting .143. with a OBP of .250. His average BA is .225 and OMP is .301.
So far this season, none of the three have been impressive; but most of the Rays have not been hitting or getting on base. Fuld and Rodriquez are both fast baserunners and capable of bunting, while Joyce is more likely to get a hit and is a left-handed batter. Since Fuld and Rodriquez are utility players and Joyce only plays when the pitcher is a right-handed pitcher, this could mean the Rays may not have a permanent two-hole batter this season.
In an interview with Fox Sports, Cy Young Award winner David Price discussed the possibility of being with a new team in the next few years and how much he will miss his current team, the Tampa Bay Rays. O, he also talked about how he wouldn’t play for certain teams due to their strict rules. “It’s a joke to me, that I had less rules in college than I would on some major league teams. That’s not my style, man. I couldn’t do it on some of these teams I hear about. I couldn’t do it. I’m a grown man” says Price. When told that he would have to shave his beard if the Yankees traded for him, Price stated “I wouldn’t stay there very long then. I wouldn’t sign a long-term deal there. Those rules, that’s old-school baseball. I was born in ’85. That’s not for me. That’s not something I want to be a part of.” Price went on to praise Rays coach Joe Maddon’s care-free environment in the club house, where players can play any type of music in the locker room and wear any type of hair (or beard) style.
Yankees fans (and probably the Yankee Organization) did not like what Price said about the strict rules over at New York. On Thursday February 21, Price began doing damage control with the Yankees by calling them the best organization in sports, saying anything could happen by 2016, “My hair might fall out by then.” But Price stuck to his principles, saying that he “never aspired to be a New York Yankee” while growing up. Price says though money is a factor, he wants to be comfortable where he plays, “The last thing I want to think is that I’m signing a long-term deal — regardless of the money — and not having the feeling I have here.” Though money is always important in signing a contract, Price makes an excellent point on feeling comfortable spending years with one team. Former Ray Carl Crawford signed an expensive contract with the Boston Red Sox and ended up hating his time there, admitting he regretted his decision to play there several times. Luckily for Crawford, the Los Angeles Dodgers could afford to cover Crawford’s contract. If Price becomes the most expensive pitcher in baseball history, that means he can’t count on another team to bail him out but will have to remain with the team. The chance that a team would not like Price is slim though since he brings laughter to the Tampa Bay area.
According to Price, the Rays’ club house is a special place in all of major league baseball. It isn’t just recently traded pitcher James Shields that will miss the Rays, “It’s everybody that’s been traded or hit free agency from here and left and got their millions of dollars. They all miss it. We do things differently over here. We have freedom. We’re treated like grown men. Other places, it’s a penitentiary.” The Rays fans know that while the players love playing in Tampa, it is common to see players leave due to money issues. Center-fielder B.J. Upton signed with the Atlantic Braves this past off-season since the Rays could not afford him, and Price knows he probably will not be a Ray forever. Price’s contract with a new team could be worst almost $200 million, a price that the Rays cannot compete with. Though Price is a Ray for the next two years, there is a possibility that he will be traded before then; some even speculate that as soon as the All-Star break 2013. Price refuses to think about it and to spend the rest of his time here having fun while playing baseball. As with Upton, Crawford, and several other former Rays, the fans will continue to speculate how long Price will remain a Ray.
I mainly use Twitter for the latest sports news, especially Tampa Bay Rays baseball news. Here are the players/coaches to follow on Twitter.
@RaysBaseball Official Twitter of the Tampa Bay Rays
@SunSportsFOXFL Fox Sports Florida Television Station: Covers Florida Teams
@RaysJoeMaddon Rays Coach Joe Maddon
@jamesloney_7 First Baseman James Loney
@TheZobrists Second baseman Ben Zobrist (shares account with his wife)
@Evan3Longoria Third baseman Evan Longoria
@d_jennings8 Center Fielder Desmond Jennings
@sweetswingin20 Right Fielder Matt Joyce
@DAVIDprice14 Cy Young Pitcher David Price
@JHell58 Pitcher Jeremy Hellickson
@mattymoe55 Pitcher Matt Moore
@Acobb53 Pitcher Alex Cobb
@Joeycatch8 Catcher Jose Molina
@SamFuld5 Outfielder Sam Fuld
@Alex21Torres Pitcher Alex Torres
@ChrisArcher42 Pitcher Chris Archer
@wilmyers Outfielder Wil Myers
@SVogt1229 Utility Player Stephen Vogt
@SeanJRodriguez1 Utility Player Sean Rodriguez
@robinson28ch Catcher Robinson Chirinos
@rroberts19 Ryan Roberts Utility Player
@ChrisGimenez5 Catcher Chris Gimenez
@JLobaton21 Catcher Jose Lobaton
@BrandonGuyer Outfielder Brandon Guyer
@Josh_Lueke Pitcher Josh Lueke
Twitter of Past Rays:
@BJUPTON2 Centerfielder BJ Upton
@reidbrignac Shortstop Reid Brignac
@ElliotJohnson9 Utility Player Elliot Johnson
@Gdeuceswild Pitcher Matt Garza
@JKeppinger Third Baseman Jeff Keppinger
@AdamRussell36 Pitcher Adam Russell
@ShopHouse10 Kelly Shoppach
B.J. Upton, former Tampa Bay Rays center fielder, has signed with the Atlanta Braves for a five-year, $75.25 million dollar contract. The Braves were seeking a center fielder after losing Michael Bourn to free agency (he is expected to make more money than the Braves can afford). There was talk that the Philadelphia Phillies were also seeking Upton, but I believe Upton made the correct choice in selecting the Braves. It would have been difficult seeing Upton in a Phillies’ uniform; the team that beat the Rays in the 2008 World Series. Another plus with signing with the Braves is that Upton will be in the National League, allowing Rays fans to continue to support Upton since the Rays barely play the Braves.
Upton was a huge part in the Rays’ success since being drafted by the Rays in 2002. Upton debuted in the majors on August 2, 2004 at the age of 19; he had his first hit against Tim Wakefield. As a Ray, Upton would play as a shortstop, left fielder third baseman, second basemen, and finally center fielder where he would prosper. In 2007, he was on the starting roster. Though Upton could produce powerful hits (usually toward the end of the season in crucial games), he was known for his speed and defense. The Rays are a team that depends on players with speed to score runs – it was entertaining watching former left fielder Carl Crawford and Upton commit double steals. The Rays are also known for their defense and Upton was a player that could be counted on. Upton was able to track down a ball and make a catch in center field look easy. It is no news that not all Rays fan embraced Upton – he was benched in 2008 for poor effort and had a public fight with Evan Longoria in 2010. Upton sometimes served as a scapegoat for Rays’ poor hitting and high number of strike outs. Upton knew about this and worried about how fans would act at his last at-bat. On his last at-bat (in which he hit the ball), Upton was taken out early by Rays coach Joe Maddon to a thunderous applause by the fans.
On his Twitter, Upton wrote “Headed to the Trop for the last time this season. Thank you to all those that have supported me and the Rays – I’m touched by all the love.” The next night he wrote “Completely overwhelmed by all the love and support right now. My only regret is not being able to bring the fans a World Series title. We have our ups and downs together but the good times and the bad made me who I am today and I wouldn’t change it. I will always remember last night. All that support and emotion meant the world to me. Thank you for all the love #raysalwaysinmyheart.” Ever after signing with the Braves, Upton continued to thank Tampa for all the great times he had playing there. This was a strong contrast to Crawford who badmouthed the fans for the small attendance over the years.
Upton will always be part of Rays’ history. Upton was the first Ray to hit for the cycle in October 2009. On August 3, 1012, B.J. Upton and his brother, Justin Upton, both hit his 100th home run on the same day. Upton was the eighth player in major-league history to post 100 home runs and 200 steals before turning 28. Maddon twitted “Thanks BJ for everything you brought to our club. We couldn’t have become the Rays without you” and he is right. The Rays are going to have a hard time replacing Upton, even if left fielder Desmond Jennings takes over as center fielder. I wish Upton the best and look forward to watching him play when the Rays take on the Braves.
After an ugly road series that involved losses to the New York Yankees and the Baltimore Orioles, the Rays are heading back to Tampa with a sweep over the Toronto Blue Jays. In the 1st inning, Matt Joyce reached first on a bunt single and error by pitcher Henderson Alvarez; a relief to know that a no-hitter would not be an issue tonight. In the bottom of the 2nd, the Rays’ defense committed its first error of the game when Brett Lawre stole second. The ball thrown by Jose Molina did not reach Elliot Johnson in time, resulting in the ball landing in the centerfield and Lawre reaching third base. The error was charged to Molina. Luckily, David Price was able to get the next two batters out. In the 3rd inning, Ben Zobrist doubled and tried to score on BJ Upton’s single, but was thrown out at home by Rajai Davis. It was a beautiful throw.
In the bottom of the 2nd, Davis reached on an infield single, but managed to make his way to second due to a throwing error by Elliot Johnson. The Rays’ defense was starting to look like it had been this previous road trip: crappy. Davis then stole third and scored on Jose Bautista’s single. The next batter, Edwin Encarnacion, then hit a 2-run homer, making the score 3-0 in favor of the Jays.
In the bottom of the third, Davis hit an infield single that Elliot Johnson. Davis then stole third and Jose Bautista drives him. Edwin Encarnacion then hits a homerun; Jays now winning 3-0. The Rays scored a run in the 5th inning when Will Rhymes singled and then scored when Zobrist doubled. In the 7th inning, Sean Rodriquez hit a leadoff homerun to make it 2-3. Rhymes reached first on a single, as did Molina when Yunel Escobar committed an error. Elliot Johnson singled, allowing Rhymes to score when Davis committed an error. Johnson is currently on a 7-game hitting streak. Pitcher Alvarez (who just turned 22) threw a wild pitch, allowing the base runners to move to the next base. Zobrist once again reached base, loading the bases. BJ Upton hit into a double play, thus only Molina scored. Rays now led 4-3.
In the bottom of the ninth, with one out, Lawre was up to bat. After several balls thrown by Fernando Rodney, Lawre attempted to walk to first but was called back due to strike two. A few seconds later, Lawre tried walking again, but was called out on strike three. (In his defense, he should of walked, those looked like balls to me and they were out of the strike zone on Fox Tracks). Lawre was upset and threw his helmet down on the ground; the helmet bounced and hit the homeplate umpire – Lawre will be fined for that. Lawre and Jays’ manager John Farrell were later ejected after arguing with the umpires. Rays won the game 4-3.
What I Liked:
- David Price: Price only had one bad inning (which included pitching around an error), but he kept his cool after giving up a homerun and managed to pitch seven innings.
- Bullpen: Peralta hasn’t been too sharp lately, but today he managed to retire all three batters in the 8th inning. He did a great job getting the middle of the lineup out. Fernando Rodney once again retired all three batters (with some help from the ump). He now has 11 saves on the season.
- Rays Batters: Rays took advantage of the Jays’ four errors and scored four runs. Always a good sign when they score at least four runs, though the average number of runs scored in the AL East is five.
What I Didn’t like:
- There were two errors committed by the Rays, one became a run and made the inning last too long. Luckily, the Jays committed four errors, allowing the Rays to win.
- Red Sox played an early game today, meaning that they will get to Tampa and be able to sleep before the Rays do.
After losing 5-4 to the Minnesota Twins in Friday’s game, the Tampa Bay Rays were once again looking to James Shields to have a strong outing. The first threat of the game came from the Rays in the 2nd inning when B.J. Upton hit a single followed by Jose Molina getting hit by a pitch but nothing came out of it. In the 4th, the Twins had their first threat after Joe Mauer singled and stole second (as Rays’ broadcaster Brian Anderson said, Molina was being lazy with that throw). Mauer would have at least made it to 3rd base but Upton robbed Justin Morneau out of a hit with an amazing catch (glad he’s back). In the 5th, Molina doubled then made it to 3rd base after Sean Rodriquez sacrificed to third baseman but for some reason Manager Joe Maddon had Desmond Jennings bunt. I was surprised by this call due to the fact that Molina is a slow runner and Jennings has been having pretty good at-bats lately. The call ended up not working after the bunt landed in Morneau’s glove, thus ending the inning.
The game started getting interesting in the top of the 6th inning when Shields allowed a single, walk, and he hit a pitcher to load the bases. Luckily, Ryan Doumit lined out to Evan Longoria, who by the way made an impressive catch. When the Rays were up, Ben Zobrist struck out but Carlos Pena walked, Longoria singled, and Luke Scott hit a sac-fly. The Twins intentionally walked Matt Joyce to load the bases with Upton coming to the plate. Upton singled to center, scoring Pena and Longoria. In the same play, Denard Span made an error, slowing Joyce to score and Upton to reach 3rd base. The Rays now led 3-0. The next time the Rays were up, Alex Burnett was pitching for the Twins. Zobrist and Jennings both reach base safely after Jamey Carroll commited an error. Pena was then hit by a pitch, allowing Longoria to come to the plate with bases loaded and one out. Longoria reaches the 1st base due to an error by Danny Valencia; the Rays now led 4-0.
Now Shields has not had any trouble since the 6th inning with the Twins, but it was surprising to see him enter the 9th inning after having 111 pitches. After giving up a single and double, Fernando Rodney was called in to get the outs. Though the Twins ended up scoring 1 run, the Rays still won 4-1.
Players of the Game:
- James Shields: Shields once again had an outstanding performance. Shields went deep, thus allowing the bullpen to rest (in case they are needed in tomorrow’s game). Shields has worked 8+ innings in 18 of his last 37 starts, which is the most in MLB in that span.
- B.J. Upton: Upton is back in his 2nd game with the Rays this season and he showed why the fans have been missing him. He made a great catch in the 4th inning, possibly preventing a threat by the Twins. Upton’s biggest moment came when he singled in the 6th inning, scoring 2 RBIs (though 3 runners scored, the last one was due to an error). Upton had 2 singles, 1 walk, and 2 RBIs today. Before the game, he visited All Children’s Hospital to visit a boy name Dom. Though he did not hit a homerun in the game, Upton “came up with a pretty big hit” possibly winning the game for the Rays. I’m sure Dom is really proud of Upton today.
What I Liked:
- Everything: The starting pitcher was great, the relief pitcher was outstanding, the defense was amazing, the hitting was wonderful, and the crowd was large (over 31,000 braved the thunderstorm to support the Rays).
What I Didn’t Like:
- Catching: Jose Molina allowed a passed ball in the 2nd inning, allowing Josh Willingham to reach 3rd base (luckily no one scored). Also, Molina had an awful throw when he attempted to catch a runner stealing second. As Anderson said, he believed Molina was “being lazy.” I’ve seen catch Molina catch Carl Crawford stealing twice in one game so I know he is defensive. Hoping to see improvement as the year goes on.
Due to the past weekend being dedicated to my birthday celebration and a Bridal Shower, I have missed the past few Rays games; but, I have heard nothing about sorrow about the Rays. Today, I was hoping the Rays would win the game due to the win yesterday; but, after seeing Kelly Shoppach and Felipe Lopez were in the line-up, I was becoming a doubter. But in the 2nd inning, Shoppach doubled, which led to a run. In the 3rd inning, B.J. Upton and Lopez both drove in runs. In other words, even the worst Rays batters were batting.
Then it got scary in the bottom of the 3rd when the Seattle Mariners were up to bat. Wade Davis began the inning by walking the lead off batter Carlos Peguero, then allowed a single, triple, sac-bunt, and a single. At the end of the 3rd inning, the Mariners had tied the inning up. Through the next several innings, both pitchers managed to prevent base runners until the top of the 7th inning. Davis walked the lead-off hitter then allowed a single by Peguero. I was hoping Davis would be taken out to prevent another inning in which he blew the lead, but Davis stayed in. He kept throwing balls and looked awful and allowed the Mariners to take the lead at 5-3.
Things were looking bleak for the Rays but luckily Damon, Zobrist, and Joyce helped the Rays tie the game. With 2 out, Evan Longoria was called in to pinch-hit. Longo had been out due to soreness, but is expected to play tomorrow against Anaheim Angels. Longo singled, allowing the Rays to take the lead at 6-5.
Now there was only 6 outs left before the Rays could get the win, but J.P. Howell was up. Recently, Howell blew a Rays’ lead, so I was once again worried. Howell was injured at the end of 2009 and has recently returned to the Rays, but he has not been dominant. IF I was Maddon, I would only put Howell in if 1) the Rays were up by 5 runs so in case Howell messed up, they would still win or 2) if Howell was to come out to get the final out in the 7th/8th with no runners on. Thus, if Howell succeeds, it will bring his confidence up; but if Howell failed, it would not cost the Rays game. At the moment, Howell has shown no reason to be the pitcher for the 8th inning in a close game. Today, Howell showed he should not be the pitcher in the 8th inning.
Howell was able to get the first out, but he walked and allowed a single. With 2 on and 1 out, Maddon should have taken Howell out (this is not hindsight, I was shouting at my TV for Maddon to take Howell out), but he left Howell in, even though he was having trouble finding the strike zone. Howell allows a single and leaves with the Rays tied at 6-6.
Then Maddon made one of the worst calls ever (maybe not ever, but it was super bad). Last night, Rays pitcher Joel Peralta replaced Jeremy Hellickson in the 8th inning (Rays were winning 3-0 at this time). Peralta allowed pinch-hitter Miguel Olivo to hit a 2-run homerun, cutting the Rays’ lead to 3-2. TODAY, Maddon replaced Howell with Peralta with Olivo batting! It was déjà vu – Olivo hit a 3-run homerun and the Mariners won a few minutes later.
Maddon is supposed to be a stat-coach, yet he didn’t realize that Peralta allowed a home run by Olivo yesterday? Maddon didn’t realize that Howell allowed 4 runs (3 unearned) and retired 0 batters in the 8th inning against the Cleveland Indians about a week ago? I appreciate all that Howell did in 2009 with the Rays, but he does not deserved to pitch in a stressful situtation. Howell needs to build his confidence up again before he (if he can) return to his old form.
Though the Rays’ offense was great, Rays’ pitching was horrible and mismanaged. With the Rays now tied with the Toronto Blue Jays with being 4 games out of 1st in the A.L East, they better start winning games and series again soon before they fall too far behind.